For the past 21 days I spent my time alone with Jesus, eating only clean foods, no meat, no alcohol, no caffeine, no sugar, and probably most importantly no Facebook or news. I was at a point in my life where I wasn’t sure I was telling my story, or at least the right version of it. I decided I needed some time to alone with my thoughts so that I could become more focused in my faith, and that meant no garbage in, only Jesus.
Today was the first day I’ve had meat in 3 weeks, and I enjoyed it, but I will also admit I miss the the fast in a way. When I was tempted to have certain foods or treats, I would use that time to pray and spend time with Jesus, and it has been an AMAZING journey. But that story is for another day, another time.
Today as I start focusing on Ragamuffin Ministries, I will begin each post with a prayer. I pray that the words that come from my mind through my fingers to the page you are seeing before you will reach at least one person who will be moved enough to consider a different way of life, THE WAY, which is all about truth and love, hope and grace, restoration and redemption. I ask this for you, the reader, in Jesus name.
I just got home from spending the past couple hours inside a medium security prison. We are reading through a book called “People of the Second Chance” (which I have also highlighted with a link on the cover of this website, it’s VERY good!) I will say this, I do hope I get the chance to sit down and chat with Mike Foster someday, some of the words he pens to the pages of his books are thoughts I feel are words I could have easily spoken, perhaps he’s my spiritual twin? After meeting with the men in my Ragamuffin group at EOCI (Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution) and talking about Chapter 4 titled “Be Brave with Your Story” I left feeling very close to God, but I always do after leaving prison. What happened on the way home is what I wanted to share with you tonight.
The older I get, the more I am starting to believe there is no such thing as chance, that everything truly does happen for a reason, and I am overwhelmed quite often when I hear the thoughts in my head coming from the voice of another man or woman. People may think I’m crazy, or trying to hard to find a connection to things I see and hear, or perhaps they will tell me I am reading between the lines too often. But what if that is where the real stories live, between the lines of the story being told to enlighten us to the mysteries that are so often not revealed. The unspoken brokenness, the hidden pain, the unknown stories of shame and guilt, or the stories we are simply too afraid to share. The author put it so perfectly “I’m also trying to be a part of a world where you and I have a community of friends who will listen to our real stories.” That line right there sums up why I go to prison to meet with men to talk about grace and forgiveness, or as Mr. Foster calls it “Second Chances”. One of the sections of this chapter is titled “YOU ARE NOT YOUR PAST”. Do you believe that? One of my favorite lines I’ve read in a long time came in this chapter as well, “You are never a never. You are a not yet in process. You are a story that has yet to be finished.” Those three short sentences say A LOT! For the one I prayed for at the beginning of this post, let that soak in for a minute. God loves you SO much he is not concerned about what you’ve done, he’s waiting patiently for what you can become.
Now let’s get back to the ride home, I was listening to someone on the radio, an unfamiliar voice, who came to me with a mic drop moment along I-84 heading West. This eloquent speaker was sharing about a time when he was in college I believe, or about a younger version of himself, and he was referring to a memory when he was in a restaurant ready to eat the food he had ordered as he noticed a couple of disgusting monsters sitting across the diner, he was honest and said it bothered him, so much so it “turned him off” to the meal waiting patiently to be enjoyed by him. He said he assumed they had gotten out of a “home” near by, the kind of people not fit to be in public. The woman was hideous with a cauliflower ear to match, he just couldn’t stomach the site of her! He then noticed a sweet young girl walk through the door holding her mother’s hand, and he felt sorry for her that such a beautiful creature had to experience the horror of this woman sitting in the booth across the restaurant. And then the unthinkable happened, the beast spoke! “Oooooh would you look at that beautiful young face, come over here sweetheart!” The nerve of that woman, how could she even consider herself worth of such beauty? As the girl got closer the woman asked for a kiss, and the sweet young angel looked back at her mother and simply smiled (as if to say “I got this”) and then did the something nobody expected, she cupped the woman’s face, kissed her forehead, and simply said “Jesus loves you”. When people wonder why Jesus was so fond of children and often spoke of a childlike faith, I have to believe he was referring to moments like THIS! The speaker went on to say he went back to his dorm room where his roommate had a poster hung on the wall of a dirty old bum sitting next to an empty bottle of booze, with this written on it:
“You only love God as much as the person you love least.”
If that sounds familiar, it actually came straight from Jesus himself (Matthew 25:31-46 if you want to read it for yourself). The speaker turned out to be Guy Doud, apparently he’s a motivation speaker and one I hope to learn more from as I go. As I continued on my drive home I was reminded of another line from Mike Foster’s Second Chance book, “But shame is like mold. It grows best in the dark.” How many of us often feel like the hideous woman that Guy had trouble even looking at, afraid to speak a word because someone might tell us we are too ugly to love. As I sit here I wish I knew more about this woman, where did her childlike faith come from, where did she find the strength to ask a sweet young lady for a kiss? This woman knew she needed love, and she wasn’t afraid to ask for it. And how about the brave little girl, walking in front of all the people too repulsed to even offer the woman a smile let alone a loving touch, all put to shame by a selfless act of love.
No matter what you have been told, you are truly and deeply loved, more so than you will ever fully understand here on Earth. But you also have a story to tell, a real story with hidden messages buried deep beneath the surface headlines that we are willing to share with others. THAT IS THE STORY I WANT TO HEAR, FROM EVERY ONE OF YOU!!! Tonight I pray for those people who haven’t accepted that love, or who feel they are unworthy of acceptance and remain quiet, sitting alone in the dark, waiting for the mold of life to consume them. Be brave, share your story with someone, most importantly open the pages of your heart and let God read to you what he sees in you, a beautiful creature who was fearfully and wonderfully made. The same God that put the stars in place knows YOU by name, and he is waiting patiently with open arms to lavish the most fulfilling love on you one could ever know. Let Him kiss your forehead and whisper “Jesus loves you”.